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The Chicago Teachers Union votes to continue personal learning with Covid-19 measures

The vote was passed with 55.5% approval, the official said. A CTU official told CNN that the limited voting “is a real disappointment with the caliber of what this mayor is ready to offer”.

The new agreement comes almost two days after the union delegate house voted to suspend its work action, effectively ending the stalemate with the Chicago Public Schools. The mass vote was the final hurdle.

Teachers in the country’s third largest school district returned to schools in person on Tuesday – and students returned on Wednesday – after classes were canceled five days in a row in the dispute between the teachers’ union and the district over Covid-19 safety protocols.

The new deal in Chicago follows an agreement between the sides on KN95 masks for students and staff for the remainder of the school year; the availability of weekly Covid-19 tests; and parameters of when a school might switch to distance learning.

The dispute highlighted a debate that was playing out in school districts across the country as they sought to balance the benefits of in-person tuition with health concerns during the rapid rise of the Omicron variant.

Parents and teachers are still concerned about the return to face-to-face learning

The teacher Nicole Riegert returned contradictingly to her science classroom on Wednesday.

“I’m a biology teacher, so I know a lot about viruses. And this virus is dangerous, ”Riegert told CNN.

“I don’t think the metric should be: Well, it doesn’t kill people. The metric should be: It makes people sick. And I got Covid over the break.”

Riegert still had breathing difficulties over the holidays after being infected, she said. On Wednesday morning, hours before the 4 p.m. CT deadline to vote on the deal, Riegert said she had not yet decided how to vote.

If the ordinary union members reject the provisional agreement, the decision would then go back to the union delegate house. The next steps could then be to maintain in-person learning during the resumption of negotiations or to increase distance learning during the course of the negotiations.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old Summer Dailey is excited to be going back to school, she told CNN.

“Not being in school was really sad and boring for me,” said the freshman at Jones College Preparatory High School.

“Personally, I love going to school. So I just wanted to go back to school. I’m really excited to be here again.”

Xuan-Vu Nguyen, whose 12-year-old son is a student in the district, said she was also relieved that schools were reopening.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Yay!'” But she added, “We are concerned if and when this will happen again without notice.”

The Chicago Teachers Union and the city reach a preliminary agreement on Covid-19 security measures

Parents weren’t warned of school closings often and their family had to drop everything to cope with the change, Nguyen said, which left her frustrated.

“I had no power as a parent – nowhere could I express my concerns, nowhere really ask questions about when this would end.”

Kathryn Rose, a Chicago teacher and parent, said she was dying to go back to school.

“I’m definitely relieved to go back to the classroom and see my students, and my children are very excited too,” she said.

“Sitting at home healthy and wanting to be in the classroom was frustrating.”

Rose has always felt safe with the school’s mitigation efforts and didn’t see a district-wide shutdown as necessary, she said.

“When you close schools, you ignore the multitude of dangers outside of the classroom, such as abuse and starvation, lack of heat and violence,” she said. “And these are things that families in Chicago really struggle with.”

Melanie Lopez, a CPS teacher and mother of 7-year-old twin girls, said she knew that now is the right time for her to send her children to school.

Melanie Lopez, seen here with her family, says she feels "in limbo" about Chicago public schools returning to face-to-face learning.

“I trust that your teachers will do everything possible. … It’s just that certain things are out of your control, ”she said. “I tried to teach my daughters the best I could. Make sure you wear your mask, make sure you give personal space.”

Lopez said she still feels unsure how this latest deal will hold out and would better plan what comes next. She told CNN that she felt “this is kind of a limbo right now”.

“We’ve been through it twice now,” she said. “If there is an increase, if there is a new variant, what is the plan?”

Reinforced testing is part of the proposed deal

As part of the agreement, school Covid-19 tests will be ramped up to up to 10% of students in each school tested each week, said CTU chief of staff Jen Johnson.

Children's hospitalizations are increasing at this Chicago hospital.  Only one of the young patients is fully vaccinated, says the doctor

The mayor’s office will work with the teachers’ union to encourage families to increase approval for tests, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “That’s a crucial part of it,” she said. “We want to achieve the highest possible number of test approvals.”

The preliminary deal also includes contact tracing details and new incentives to increase the number of proxy in the district, the mayor said.

The two sides also agreed on school-level metrics if we needed to remodel a classroom or school. Unsurprisingly, the constituents of it are from the absences of the staff and / or the “she said.

The union’s grassroots voting began late Tuesday and is expected to be open 24 hours, in time for a regular Wednesday afternoon meeting of the CTU House of Delegates, a union official told CNN.

Omicron’s surge is affecting schools across the country

The dead end in Chicago began last week when the union voted to start teaching virtually due to rising Covid-19 cases in the school system. In response, the school district canceled classes during the negotiations.

To make up for the teacher shortage, school districts are asking parents and various staff to provide replacements

On January 4 – the last day students were in classrooms before the temporary closings – the Chicago Public Schools reported 422 new Covid-19 cases in students and 271 new cases in adults – both record highs for the academic year.

Nationwide, the vast majority of schools are operating as usual, but according to data company Burbio, which aggregates data based on school calendars and other sources, there were at least 2,685 schools on Tuesday that didn’t offer face-to-face learning. In the country’s second largest school district, 66,000 cases of Covid-19 were reported among students and staff when they returned to face-to-face classes on Tuesday. The district required a Covid 19 test for all students and employees, regardless of their vaccination status, before they returned from the winter break. Superintendent Megan Reilly said every adult on the school premises and more than 80% of students over the age of 12 were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 on break “from Friday to deal with his” extreme staff shortage due to the high number of positive Covid-19 cases ” . Students do not attend school on Friday or January 18; Monday was already scheduled as a day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.From Europe to the USA, Covid cases in children are increasing.  Schools are not preparedIn Philadelphia, nearly a third of the city’s schools have switched to distance learning based on a combination of the threshold of positive cases of Covid-19 and a personal data review. “We will continue to make school decisions based on the most up-to-date personnel information and ask you to prepare for the virtual learning opportunity at any time,” said Superintendent Dr. William Hite in a statement Tuesday. Cincinnati Public Schools are being temporarily removed because of “ongoing staff shortages that are the result of the increasing spread of Covid-19 in the community,” the district said in a statement Monday. Schools in Santa Fe, New Mexico will go virtual starting Jan. 18, with a return to in-person instruction scheduled for Jan. 24, “as things improve,” a county statement said. The postponement is due to an increase in Covid-19 cases, Superintendent Larry Chavez said.

“SFPS ended last week with 361 student and staff cases, the largest ever in a week for our district, and many are still under investigation,” he said. “The number of cases could rise to nearly 600 this week, and we’ve seen it become more prevalent in classrooms.”

CNN’s Bill Kirkos, Kelly McCleary and Raja Razek contributed to this report.

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